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2015 NCAA Tournament First Round Preview: UAB Blazers vs. Iowa State Cyclones

The feisty team from Birmingham probably got a higher seed than they deserved... and an opponent that will ensure it doesn't really matter.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

I already wrote about the fact that UAB's regular season profiles as a team that got to where they are by way of some late season improvement and also a little bit of luck with how their conference tournament matchups played out. I also said they were very likely to be overmatched against whomever they wound up facing in the tournament.

Now that they're facing the Fighting Hoibergs of Iowa State? Oh yes, that is not doubly, but triply true.

The Matchup

The Cyclones are... what's a good way to put this... disgustingly efficient on offense. There are only 17 teams in the country with a better effective FG%, and only 15 who turn the ball over less often. Sophomore Matt Thomas and Northern Illinois transfer Abdel Nader are the only two players in the standard eight-man rotation who play less than 24 minutes a game, and they're also the only two who shoot worse than 46 percent from the field.

Oh, and they have some dude named Georges Niang, who is averaging 18.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists over the last eight games, but he's been playing at that high level for a while. Monte Morris, on the other hand, has come into his own in his sophomore season and has improved as the season progressed. Witness his 24 point, three rebound, three assist and five steal performance against Texas as sound evidence.

This really presents a tall task for the Blazers. The three teams that they played when they were in the Bahamas -- Wisconsin, UCLA, and Florida -- are the only teams they've played all season who are even close to the caliber of opponent they will face in Iowa State. And those three squads absolutely steamrolled UAB.

In terms of RPI, the one team Iowa State faced that was comparable to the Blazers was Texas Tech. The Red Raiders did manage to win the first matchup between the two, but then turned around and got bulldozed by 32 points two weeks later. I would consider the second result to be more indicative of UAB's fate.

You also have to factor in the lack of experience for the Blazers; one-third of their nine-man rotation had never played collegiate ball prior to this season, let alone NCAA Tournament basketball. You can contrast UAB's complete lack of tournament experience with Iowa State, where every player but the three freshman on the roster has at least one year of tournament experience.

KenPom has this one as an 86 percent chance of an Iowa State win and a projected score of 81-69, both of which I think are generously small. This one won't ever be close.

Prediction: Iowa State 85, UAB 60